There are many lists of restaurant grand opening ideas online. Too often, these lists rehash the same few ideas. Below are the 50 greatest ideas for a restaurant grand opening that you may not have seen before.
Consider using several of these ideas for your big day to make your grand opening a hit.
1. Celebrate Local Heroes
Honoring local heroes such as police officers or firefighters is one of the best grand opening event ideas for any small business, and is also a great idea for a opening a new restaurant that is part of a large chain of restaurants.
When you are large and honor our local heroes, you tell the community that you are part of the community and your care (and not some cold corporate chain). When you are a small business and honor local heroes, you reinforce what your audience already hopes you do — be in the community and for the community.
A great way to put your money where your mouth is on this one is to offer free food to all firefighters and police officers who dine at your restaurant on its opening day, and offer discounts for their direct family members.
2. Make It an Art Show
Consider showing off the work of local artists during your business’ grand opening. Community members looking for an enjoyable weekend activity might be more drawn to your event if they know it will give them a good chance to enjoy delicious food while also viewing impressive art. The art does not have to be from adults. Depending on your restaurant, you might want to have it be children’s art, or children’s art from local hospitals. There are many options here.
You could combine the art show with a charity fundraiser by selling the art. If the artists are able to be at your grand opening to talk about their art and meet your guests, that will add to the interest.
You probably won’t want to put holes in your walls, so you will likely have to buy easels or stands for the artwork.
3. Roll Out the Red Carpet (Literally)
Don’t be afraid to embrace your glamorous side when planning your restaurant’s big event. If you have the space for it, install a red carpet that leads from the sidewalk to your front door.
This could catch the eye of potential customers and ensure your grand opening makes a unique impression. It might also inspire guests to take photos of the event with a strategically placed backdrop and post them on social media. This is one more way to get some free advertising from those attending your grand opening.
4. Hire a “Flair” Bartender
Flair bartending involves adding some showmanship to the process of making drinks. Check the pages of local influencers who cover the restaurant and bar scene in your area. They may have posted about flair bartenders who you can hire to work your bar for the grand opening.
5. Don’t Limit Your Grand Opening to One Day
Your grand opening doesn’t have to be a single-day event. Doing a soft opening first, where only friends and family attend, is a safe way to prepare for the grand opening. This gives you and your staff a chance to practice before the first major day of business.
The grand opening itself can also be an event that spans an entire weekend. This will give more customers the chance to participate. Someone who can’t stop by your grand opening on a Saturday may be able to do so on a Sunday. The more people who visit, the more people there are to spread the word about your business.
6. Hire Incredible Live Entertainment (Band and Performers)
Sorry, high school bands and Spotify playlists. This is one event that should hire the very best…live. Hosting fantastic live entertainment is one of the best ways to attract customers to your restaurant’s grand opening. Consider who your target audience is, and hire a well-known band, comedian, or another such performer who you believe would appeal to their tastes to appear at your business the day it opens. Stay away from controversy.
Also, make sure you’ve looked into whether you’ll need a permit to host live entertainment. For example, if you’re hosting an outdoor concert during your grand opening, you want to avoid being interrupted by a noise complaint.
7. Co-Organize with a Medium- to Large-Sized Charity
Instead of announcing funds that your business will be donating to charity, actually partnering with a local charity or the local branch of a national or international charity will usually generate increased enthusiasm for your restaurant’s grand opening. Customers may be more likely to attend if they feel that your business is not only supporting a good cause, but embedded with one.
By partnering with a charitable organization, you could likely promote the opening through the charity’s own social media accounts and also directly increase your headcount with attendees from that organization.
8. Invite a Local Celebrity
You may not have the budget and connections needed to invite major celebs to your restaurant’s grand opening. However, you could invite local celebrities. These may include local athletes, TV news personalities, and anyone else who might make a great first impression on guests. Again, doing some digging on the person and make sure to stay away from controversy to maximize your guest list.
9. Create a Hashtag (Free Idea!)
Creating a hashtag for your restaurant’s grand opening is a smart way to get the word out via Facebook posts, Instagram posts, and more. A hashtag encourages guests to take pictures of their meals and share them with their own social media followers.
10. Organize a Wine Tasting
Restaurant grand opening best practices often involve turning your opening day into a unique experience instead of simply offering customers a meal. One such experience you may organize within your event could be a wine tasting. This will give you a chance to showcase your wine menu if it’s one you’re quite proud of.
You could have the wine tasting ongoing in one area of your restaurant, or you could have waitresses and waiters walking through your crowd and frequently introducing small glasses of different wines for your guests to try. Make sure your wait staff is well-spoken and can describe each wine to your guests.
11. Highlight the Region (Free Idea!)
To build a good relationship with the local community, make the region the focus of the grand opening of your restaurant. You could do so by serving local beer and wine, sourcing ingredients from local farms, and even inviting owners of small businesses in the area to promote their businesses during your event.
This idea has a lot of benefits: higher attendance from the local farmers and perhaps their families, a stronger relationship with the people who grow the food for the restaurant, appearance of having fresher and healthier food on your menu, and showing the community that eating at your restaurant means supporting local jobs and families.
12. Celebrate Your Vendors (Free Idea!)
This idea is similar to the previous idea that is focused on farmers. If local small business owners are some of your vendors, you will strengthen your relationship with them by making them special guests during your grand opening. You will also show your guests that eating at your restaurant helps local small business and by extension, your community. Be sure to thank them publicly and on social media posts.
13. Change It Up Throughout the Day
The nature of your restaurant’s grand opening can change over the course of a day. This allows it to better reflect the different experiences you wish to offer guests based on what time of day they visit.
For example, the theme of your grand opening during brunch and lunch could be “Parisian bistro.” Or it might be another theme with a casual atmosphere that is appropriate for families with children. For dinner, it might be a good idea to incorporate more live entertainment for an exciting party atmosphere.
14. Offer Big Gifts
Offering free food is great, but pre-announcing and giving away expensive gifts has long been a popular way to celebrate a restaurant’s grand opening for a very simple reason: it works.
15. Invite the Local Press (Free Idea!)
Social media influencers aren’t the only ones whose opinions your customers may value. When extending formal invitations to your special event, don’t forget to include local newspapers, radio stations, and other such local media outlets. A strong press release can also attract such guests.
16. Offer Free Food
Don’t force your customers to choose from just a few menu items to try during their first visit to your restaurant. Instead, consider offering a sampling menu so they can get a better sense of all that you serve.
17. Design a Challenge or Game
A challenge or competition (with a great prize at the end) can add an element of fun to a grand opening. This is particularly true if you have a large crowd.
Just be sure to tailor the event to the nature of your restaurant. For example, if you serve spicy food, you might allow willing guests to participate in a competition to see if they can finish a very spicy meal.
18. Plan an Awards Ceremony
If you’re going to be including a competition as part of your grand opening party, you might also want to plan a mock awards ceremony to recognize winners. This is a smart idea if your grand opening includes a trivia contest.
19. Choose a Theme
Choosing the right theme for your grand opening day can help you attract the specific types of customers you believe you would be interested in, giving you repeat business. Your theme could be a certain decade, a special occasion (such as high school prom), or anything else that reflects your brand.
20. Host a Digital Restaurant Grand Opening
Not every potential customer may be in the area the day you have your grand opening. However, you could give those who can’t attend your restaurant opening in person the chance to join in the festivities by posting videos and photos of the event across your various social media pages throughout the day.
21. Offer a Class
One of the most effective ways to show off the great food you’re serving at your restaurant is to offer grand opening guests the chance to take a basic cooking class. While you may not be able to let all customers participate, this could be an activity a limited number of guests sign up for ahead of time. You could also include an audience area for people to watch the live cooking instructions and watch the other learners in action.
Keep in mind that most learners will be more interested in dishes that they can do at home that don’t need expensive or new equipment.
22. Film Interviews with Guests (Practically Free Idea!)
Consider asking your staff members (or an outside film crew) to visit customers’ tables throughout the day to conduct quick video interviews, asking them what they think of the restaurant. This will give you a chance to get some honest feedback while also showing customers that you value their opinions.
23. Celebrate an Important Local Day (Free Idea!)
Some restaurant owners schedule their grand openings for holidays because they know that many people choose to eat out on holidays. While this may be a good idea for some, if you’re worried about competing with popular restaurants on a major holiday, schedule your restaurant’s grand opening to coincide with a significant local day instead. An example might be the day your town was founded or your city was incorporated.
24. Invite Social Media Influencers
Social media influencers can draw a lot of positive attention to your new restaurant on the day of its grand opening. Before the big day, research if there are any social media influencers in your area whose audience might be interested in your business.
Extend a formal invitation to them. You might even give social media influencers a reason to visit your grand opening by offering a free appetizer or other such “freebie.” You don’t want to bribe social media influencers for attention, but you do want to make sure they believe visiting your grand opening will be worth their time.
25. Screen the Big Game (Free Idea!)
Is yours the type of restaurant you believe will attract customers who enjoy watching sports while sitting down for drinks and meals? If so, schedule your grand opening so that it lands on the same day as a major sporting event.
Make sure your social media marketing strategy in the lead-up to your grand opening highlighting that you’ll be screening the game. Allow groups to RSVP for reserved seating and offer free food so you can effectively compete directly with house parties at that time.
26. Host a Local Trivia Competition
Many restaurants and bars attract customers on a weekly basis by hosting trivia nights. For your restaurant opening, you could modify this idea by hosting a trivia competition in which guests test their knowledge of local history. This is another way to grow a positive reputation among community members.
Make sure to announce a great prize for the winner to generate interest.
27. Invite “Real” (Cardboard) Celebrities
If you can’t afford to invite real celebs, placing cardboard cutouts of them throughout your restaurant could be a fun way to create photo ops for social media channels on your opening day.
28. Offer Kid-Friendly Activities
Don’t exclude guests with kids from taking part in your official grand opening. If yours is a kid-friendly restaurant, offer kid-friendly activities that won’t be too distracting for guests without children. Go beyond the free coloring pages and crayons, otherwise you won’t be more interesting than what IHOP does in many of its locations every single day. Just a couple of suggestions are stuffed animals and gamer gift cards (like Google Play gift cards).
29. Cater to Various Diets
Although this is an idea, it would be a good idea to make sure this is included in all grand openings. To do this, make sure people who visit your restaurant for the first time on its opening day know you offer many different types of food to cater to many different types of diets. This will help you grow your audience fast from the start.
Combining this idea with the idea of offering free food would give you a chance to show off your gluten free, dairy free, and other special dietary need offerings.
30. Take Guests on “Vacation”
When planning a theme for your grand opening week or day, think about the types of spots your customers might want to visit on vacation. For example, maybe your region is very cold. If so, you could plan a tropical theme for your grand opening.
31. Host a Poetry Reading (Free Idea!)
Inviting local poets to read their work during your grand opening is another option to consider if you think hiring a live band wouldn’t be the right fit for your restaurant. For example, a poetry reading might be a better choice than a live music performance if you’re opening a coffee shop.
32. Celebrate the Start of a New Season
Is your first day of business near the start of a new season? Highlight this by offering a seasonal menu. You could also decorate your restaurant to celebrate the season.
33. Offer Gift Cards from Local Businesses (Free Idea!)
Along with free samples and special offers, gift cards that can be used at local businesses could be raffled off to your customers during your grand opening. This is yet one more way to connect your restaurant business to the larger local community and economy.
This is an expensive idea to implement on its own, or with other ideas. Local businesses will likely be very interested in giving you the gift cards because it will bring people into their stores.
34. Organize a Block Party
If you’re looking for even more ways to make your new business feel like a welcome part of the community, partner up with other businesses in the area to plan a block party for your opening day. Planning these types of community events helps business owners spread brand awareness throughout their regions.
35. Advertise in a Local Parade
Are there any parades or other such local events taking place shortly before your grand opening? If so, you may want to advertise your opening with a float in the parade.
36. Host an Auction
Hosting an auction can help you fill up tables during your restaurant opening. An auction may be even more likely to attract guests if the proceeds go to local charities. Remember, locals want to support businesses that support causes that are important to them.
37. Hire Professional Decorators
Does a local business in your area offer property decorating or landscaping services? Hire them to decorate your business for its opening day if so.
This will serve two purposes. One, it will make your restaurant more attractive from the start. Two, it will help you get the support you need from other local business owners.
38. Offer Reusable To-Go Bags
Not everyone who attends your restaurant’s grand opening will finish their meal. If they ask for their meal to go, send them off with a branded reusable to-go bag. They may use these bags later on when shopping at a local retail store. This is another way to spread brand awareness.
39. Plan Outdoor & Indoor Activities
Don’t let poor weather stop you from having a successful grand opening. When coming up with grand opening event ideas, make sure you plan both indoor and outdoor activities. If rain strikes, you want your customers to be able to celebrate your first day of business inside.
40. Encourage Dancing (Free Idea!)
Is there a space at your restaurant that can serve as a dance floor? If so, make sure your customers know they not only have the option to use it but that you want them to. You might even host a dance competition if your target audience would enjoy such an activity.
41. Let Guests Leave Written Messages (Practically Free Idea!)
Consider setting up a chalkboard or whiteboard where guests can leave personalized “good luck” messages for you on your first day of business. This will encourage guests to think more about what they liked about your restaurant after their first experience visiting it.
If you’re afraid guests might leave inappropriate messages, you can ask them to write their messages on slips of paper they can place in a “good luck box” instead.
42. Create a “Guest List” (Free Idea!)
Will you be accepting reservations for your grand opening? Ask customers reserving tables to put their names on a “guest list” if so. This type of language makes your restaurant sound like an exclusive spot that not everyone can get into. For some types of restaurants, this can help attract more customers.
43. Have a Small-Scale Grand Opening Elsewhere
Some restaurants these days also have food trucks they use to spread the word about their businesses to the general public. If you have a food truck, you might send it to a local event (like a farmers market) on your opening day so that you can have a small-scale grand opening away from your actual location.
44. Have a Mascot
Is yours a family restaurant? If it is, you might promote your brand with a mascot.
Consider hiring someone to dress up as your mascot for your restaurant’s grand opening. Radio stations will likely have several mascot-type costumes for different seasons (like an Easter bunny for Easter), so if your opening falls near a major holiday this could be a partnership opportunity that comes with a free costume.
This type of minor publicity stunt can help you attract local media coverage. It can also give your customers more reasons to post pictures showing off your restaurant on social media.
45. Offer Free Delivery to Local Businesses
In the days before your grand opening, part of your soft launch can involve offering free delivery to nearby businesses. This will generate buzz for your restaurant before it officially opens. Those who work at nearby businesses may take advantage of the free delivery offer to try out your food for lunch. If they like what you have to offer, they may attend your grand opening and may even invite friends.
46. Pique Interest
Putting together a media kit, handing out fliers, and giving out business cards whenever you can are all common ways to let people know your restaurant’s grand opening is upcoming.
However, you might want to be more secretive when advertising the grand opening. For example, instead of telling people what you’re advertising, hand out fliers or post other advertising materials telling people the date and location of your big event without describing exactly what it is. Being somewhat mysterious could help you generate excitement.
47. Encourage the After Party (Free Idea!)
Does your restaurant close earlier than some of the other bars or restaurants nearby? Encourage your guests to continue partying at those other businesses once you’ve closed if so. This helps you let others in the area know you’re not trying to steal their customers away.
48. Cut the Ribbon (Practically Free Idea!)
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is a classic idea for a restaurant’s grand opening. Although trying out unique grand opening ideas can be a smart way to make an impression, that doesn’t mean you also have to ignore the types of ideas that have worked for other restaurants in the past.
49. Hire a Photographer
Hiring a professional photographer to take pictures throughout your grand opening can make the day feel more like a special event for your guests. It can also ensure that you have many quality photos from which to choose when posting about your grand opening online.
You could also share these photos with media outlets. You may find it’s easier to attract local media coverage if you’re able to provide photos and other materials for local newspapers and blogs.
50. Host a Karaoke Night
This isn’t the type of restaurant grand opening idea that’s right for every business. For example, if you’re launching a classy gourmet restaurant, karaoke could ruin the atmosphere.
On the other hand, a karaoke competition could be an ideal way to celebrate the grand opening of a hip new restaurant aimed at a younger crowd. For the best results, be sure to thoroughly test out your sound equipment ahead of time.
The right grand opening should be an important part of your restaurant’s business plan. It is one of the first steps to running a successful restaurant because your grand opening is critical for making the right impression on new customers. Then, after you get them coming back, hard work to and good customer service will keep them as customers. I hope these ideas help you achieve this very important goal.
Although millions of people visit Brandon's blog each month, his path to success was not easy. Go here to read his incredible story, "From Disabled and $500k in Debt to a Pro Blogger with 5 Million Monthly Visitors." If you want to send Brandon a quick message, then visit his contact page here.